It's been a long time since I had an edition of the CrossFit Chronicles.
Believe me, not for lack of anything going on, because PLENTY has been going on, I just didn't want all of you to get bored reading about how amazing CrossFit is, how it changed my life, how I think everyone should do it, etc, etc, etc.
But today, today I feel the need to share.
Last night our head coach, lead programmer, master of all things CrossFit, posted something very important, reminding all of us of the reasons he programs the way he does. I'll share it with you all here:
Your En Fuego Coaching Team believes in and follows, slow/smart progressions. I know there are some of you that feel you need to be left flat on your back gasping for air after every workout or that you should go after a new 1 rep max at every opportunity on a strength lift (even if the programming states "moderately heavy"), but there's a huge problem with that. It usually leads to a stagnant plateau or worse yet an injury. My goals with our programming is to provide a progressive training stimulus, to expose you to many strength and conditioning variables at varying intensities/loads/time domains, to make sure you all are safe and recover appropriately, and lastly (but just as important I believe) keeping our training fun and interesting. Responsible and intelligent programming isn't always "sexy" to us CrossFitters. We enjoy the challenge of tackling "Murph", trying to PR our "Fran" time, or attempting to Deadlift a certain goal weight. Trust me I enjoy all of these things too! There's a time and place for WODs like that though (tomorrow maybe?!?! hint, hint... Total #2). Don't be fooled into thinking that you always have to "go big or go home". Embrace the small steps and the ability to continue moving steadily and safely forward.
That was his prologue to this article here, and please READ IT!!
Nobody Says It, But This Is the Greatest Weightlifting Lesson I've Learned
- James Clear
You'll never walk into the gym and hear someone say, "You should do something easy today."
But after 10 years of training, I think embracing slow and easy gains is one of the most important lessons I've learned.
In fact, this lesson applies to most things in life. And it comes down to the difference between progress and achievement.
Let me explain...
The Difference Between Progress and Achievement
Our society is obsessed with achievement. This is especially true in the gym.
I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else. Last week, a guy at my gym clean and jerked 325 pounds and made it look easy. My first question to him was, "What's your max?"
I didn't say, "How is your training going?" or "Have you been making progress recently?" but rather, "What is the absolute maximum weight you can do?"
My question was all about what he could achieve, not how he has progressed.
And you'll find that mentality everywhere. Nobody is going to celebrate you for going up 1 pound per week. Everybody wants you to try for 10 more pounds right now.
Here's the problem: A focus on achievement in the here and now usually comes at the expense of slower, more consistent progress. Achievement is so ingrained in our culture that we often ignore progress. (Of course, focusing on progress would ultimately lead to higher achievement, but it's easy to dismiss that fact when you want to set a new PR today.)
I'm still learning to embrace this principle myself, but I'm getting better at it. And here's what I've learned about training for slow progress rather than immediate achievement.
1. Slow Gains Add Up Really Fast
Here's the thing about taking it slow: It adds up really fast.
Here's an example...
I want you to go into the gym this week, pick your favorite lift (squats for example), and lift 1 pound more than you did last week. You are not allowed to do 2 pounds more. Only 1 pound.
Do you think you could do that? Most people would be like, "Of course. That's easy." And they're right.
But here's the funny thing: If you do that every week, then you're going to add 50 pounds to your lifts in the next year. Stick with that for two years and you're lifting 100 pounds more.
How many people do you know who are lifting 100 pounds more than they were two years ago? I don't know many. Most people are so obsessed with squeaking out an extra 10 pounds this week that they never find the patience to make slower (but greater) long-term gains.
It all comes down to the power of average speed. The next two years are going to come and go. The time will pass anyway. Might as well be climbing the whole time.
2. Slow Gains Help You Handle Intensity Later On
For some reason, we think that starting easy and going up slowly is a waste of our time. It's not.
When you start with easy weights (and I think this is especially important in the beginning), you build the capacity to do work. If you're getting back in the gym after a long layoff, then I think that at least the first month of lifting should be easy.
For some reason, society has convinced us that if your heart rate isn't above 150 beats per minute and you don't feel gassed at the end of your workout, then you haven't done yourself any good. I disagree. If you actually add a little weight each week and don't miss workouts, then it will get hard enough, fast enough. Trust me.
Build a foundation of strength with easy workouts and a lot of volume. Do 1,000 reps over the next few months and let your body learn how to move through space. Slowly go up each week. By this time next year, you'll be able to handle the heavy weights with ease.
3. Slow Gains Foster Recovery
The body has an amazing ability to adapt -- if you give it time to do so.
When you place a stimulus on the body, it will either find a way to handle it or die. In the case of weightlifting, your body will build muscle and bone tissue, and you'll gradually become stronger. Small, consistent gains give the body just enough stress to grow and just enough time to recover.
But if you try to push the body too far, too fast, then it will find a different way to adapt. Namely, inflammation, injury, and stress. You might be able to add 10 pounds per week for a few weeks, but pretty soon it will catch up to you and you'll be sitting on the couch trying to get healthy.
Hard, Hard, Hurt vs. Slow, Slow, Never Stop
If you want to get in shape, to get stronger, and to reach your full potential, then what is the most important thing of all?
Answer: not missing workouts.
There is nothing more important than building the habit of getting in the gym and not missing workouts. Stop trying to make up for the fact that you're inconsistent by going harder when you're there. Long-term progress doesn't work that way. Instead, train yourself to not miss workouts and slowly add weight.
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: Are you just trying to put up a big number right now? Or are you really in this for the long haul?
Most people train in this cycle: hard, hard, hard, hurt.
I'd rather go slow, slow, slow, never stop.
I read that and it immediately hit home for me. My philosophy since beginning this fitness lifestyle has been to go slow, slow, slow, never stop! Fitness (for me) needs to be something that I can do FOR LIFE. If I go hard, hard, hard, I am going to get hurt.
And to quote Sweet Brown,
Walking into CrossFit En Fuego this morning I knew we would have on our white board something related to a PR. Coach Pete left clues in the post, Coach Jen posted this
So I was pretty excited.
Then I saw the whiteboard.
And my heart jumped a little bit! 3 different PR's could be set today! Wow! Exciting!!!
Coach Pete explained how the workout would go. If we already knew what our previous PR was, then as soon as we hit a new PR we were to STOP, unless we had permission from him and he was watching to make sure that proper form, etc., was kept! This was not a hard, hard, hard, hurt workout. So maybe the PR was only by 5 pounds, it's still a PR.
We divided up into groups of 3-4 and I worked with my gals Joan, Karin, and Jen. We all thought we might be around the same PR weight, so there wouldn't need to be too much shifting of adding/taking away weights. We warmed up and off we went.
First up was the clean.
And I PR'd, as did all my girls. So proud of them! And as you can see, we are all very similar in strength for this lift. My previous PR was 80#, so an increase of 10#
Next up was the bench press. If you watch that video link (and it's not from my gym) you will notice that there is some improper form going on. The hips should not be lifting up off the bench.
And yes, we all hit new PR's. I tried 90# and failed. I got it up about 3/4 of the way but just didn't have any drive left in me to get it up all the way. That's okay. I still PR'd by 10#
And lastly we had the overhead squat. All 4 of us went into this lift thinking we'd "be lucky" if we did 45#
I think you can see that we ALL exceeded that by a pretty significant margin. GO US!! I attempted 75# but had to bail out at the bottom. First time I ever had to bail out of a lift like that. Fell on my butt. LOL.
After all 3 PR's were completed, we totaled them up and shared them on the backside of the whiteboard. These scores will remain on the board until we do this again, which might be in a year or so.
This WOD took us a long time, but all of us had the time, so there was no pressure to hurry through, we just cheered each other on, gave support and encouragement. laughed, and had a great time seeing how strong we had all become!
Including warmup (which included a 400m run that I RAN!!) this WOD took us 1:41!! But in that time I burned 566 calories and I was very happy. Happy to see all the progress I have made, happy to see all the progress my friends have made, and happy that I have such amazing coaches that truly care about us.
Life is good.
And all this strength training should surely have me prepared to compete with my girls in the Spartan Sprint which is coming to Tampa on February 15th!!
What's something you've done recently that has made you proud?? Have you ever done a Spartan race??